Can You Separate Coaching from Consulting?

Can You Separate Coaching from Consulting?

06.12.12Lorne Blackman

Five key ingredients to produce a coaching/consulting dynamic

While we are not all “consultants,” we often find ourselves playing an advisory role.  Whether it is with a boss, a peer, or a subordinate, sometimes we are asked to think and act as the “expert.”  This raises an interesting question – that is, “can you separate coaching from consulting?”

Schaffer Consulting’s Holly Newman asks her colleague, Lorne Blackman, for his thoughts around this question.  Thinking through his past 25 years of experience – working with organizations including Providence Health and Services, ConAgra Foods, Stanford Hospital & Clinics, and The World Bank – Lorne believes that coaching goes hand and hand with consulting. 

Lorne explains that while there are cases where one can separate coaching from consulting, the nature of our practice calls for leveraging skills in both of these domains.  Trying to separate them would produce an artificial divide.  As we often spend many years working with our clients, a strong, advisory relationship typically develops.  This kind of relationship, however, doesn’t just develop on its own – it takes mindful effort to create it.  Lorne has found that there are five key ingredients necessary to produce a coaching / consulting dynamic.

  1. Be Present – Make yourself available to your client. By meeting with your client face to face, or connecting regularly over a telephone call, your counterpart will begin to see you as a partner.  Listen to what they have to say, ask good questions, identify what is important to them – and remember it.
  2. Trust – By demonstrating that you truly do care and that you are vested in their success, trust will emerge.  You’ll start hearing your client share stories about their family, their career, and difficult relationships.  Respect their openness and use what you learn to enable them to achieve their dreams.
  3. See Your Advisee as a Whole Person – A leader is not just a leader – they are a friend, a spouse, a parent, a sibling, a child and so much more.  We all play multiple roles at multiple times.  When coaching a client, realize that they go beyond their job title and are affected by the numerous roles they play.  Learning opportunities surround us in all settings – including at home.
  4. See Your Advisee in the Context of their Work Environment – It is important to understand the leader in terms of the organization they serve and the organizational challenges they face.  Lorne refers to this as “removing the firewall” that some companies build between coaching and consulting – coaching should happen within the particular context of the organization and challenges that the leader is facing.
  5. Leverage What Works – Lorne finds that a focused approach is best – one where he gets clarity on the organization’s purpose, what the leader is looking to accomplish, and the broad principles that govern the company.  He then links this to the top few specific and measurable goals that must be accomplished.  While identifying an organization’s mission, vision, and values is ambiguous, creating a short list of the goals necessary to achieve desired performance is not – especially when these goals include a list of the strategies and tactics designed to achieve them such as organizational initiatives, WorkOut and Rapid Result projects.

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